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Bush and Gandhi on Christianity

Horse Fly
Published Wednesday, December 15, 2004

If George W. Bush were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict him? What if in the roundup, Mohandas K. Gandhi was inadvertently hauled in for the same charge? Gandhi, of course, was the Hindu leader whose adherence to non-violent resistance helped free India in 1947 from British colonial rule. During the debate in Iowa for the presidential election in 2000, when the moderator asked the candidates what philosopher they admired the most, Bush blurted out "Christ." Why? "Because," Bush answered, "he changed my heart." Gandhi was repeatedly approached by Christian missionaries in South Africa and India to "receive Jesus into his heart." But Gandhi responded, "Why all this quarrel about labels? Cannot a few hundred thousand Indians or Africans live the message of Christ without being called Christians?"

Gandhi felt that being a good Hindu was tantamount to being a good Christian. He did not think it was necessary to convert "to be a believer in the beauty of the teachings of Jesus or to try to follow his example," as he put it. Gandhi said that the rejection of violence and the commandment to love in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) "was the whole of Christianity for him who wanted to live a Christian life. It is that Sermon which has endeared Jesus to me," Gandhi said.

Contrast the teachings of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount with the deeds of President Bush, who has sent to their deaths over 1,200 American soldiers in Afghanistan as well as over 1,200 in Iraq. The United Press International reports that nearly 17,000 American service members medically evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq are not even counted in public Pentagon casualty reports.

Both wars on W’s watch have also wounded an uncounted number of Afghans and Iraqis and according to Project on Defense Alternatives, killed between 1,000-1,300 Afghan civilians, and according to the British medical journal Lancet, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, 40,000 of whom were children.

If, as Jesus observed, "You can know a tree by its fruit," the liberation of India was the fruit of Gandhi’s policy of non-violent resistance. After India’s independence was won, however, Hindus and Moslems violently rioted; and India was soon partitioned into two nations—India for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Moslems.

Sorrowful over the partition and wanting the two nations to live in peace, Gandhi fasted to end the bloodshed between them and broke his fast only when the leaders promised to quit fighting. Twelve days later, Gandhi was assassinated. He was shot by a fellow Hindu, an extremist who felt Gandhi had been paying too much attention to the Moslems and had been seduced by religious tolerance.

For his belief in non-violence, Gandhi was willing to put his own life on the line. "No man is worthy of me," Gandhi’s exemplar Jesus said, "who does not take up his cross and follow me."

Is there enough evidence to convict Gandhi of being a Christian? If George W. Bush were arrested for being a Christian, would he get off scot-free?

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